Top positive review
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I Find Something New Each Listen
on March 11, 2001
First of all, the title: hold your tongue when you say it. (I'll give you a hint: "pirate" is meant to sound like "pile of".)
I was prepared to say that this is my least favorite BNL album, and certainly it's the one I've listened to the least, but... each time I do listen to it, some subtlety, some previously undiscovered nuance, some secret meaning jumps out at me and blows me away.
It first happened when I realized that "Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank," a bouncy little tune, was actually about a stalker hunting down the object of his obsession. Much deeper and disturbing than I had guessed. Cool! Then I realized "I Live With It Every Day" was about a man haunted by a friend he had (accidentally?) killed when he was a child. Pretty obvious, but I had never really listened to the lyrics. Then -- hey, "Call Me Calmly" is actually a hooker talking to a john! How clever is that? "When I Fall" (which I think is the most beautiful song ever from BNL) is about a window washer! And (this one took the longest to register) "Just a Toy" -- it's about a lifeless puppet in Gepetto's workshop, fiercely jealous of all the affection the living Pinocchio is getting! ("Look at his face, somewhat like mine/But look at his nose, you can always be sure that he's lying... I call him liar, you call him son/If I could move, I'd set him on fire and I'd run.") That one still amazes me. What level is your brain working on to come up with a song like that?
A lot of people call this the best BNL album -- mostly because, I think, it was the first one those people had ever heard. "Shoe Box" was played on Friends and appeared on the Friends soundtrack, "The Old Apartment" had a video directed by Jason Priestly, BNL showed up on Beverly Hills 90210 to sing it... and suddenly people everywhere were on the BNL bandwagon.
I'm not saying they're wrong for liking this album. But it's certainly not the best thing BNL has ever done. While there are a number of stunning tracks here, Pirate Ship is not nearly as fun as Gordon, Maybe You Should Drive, or Stunt, nor nearly as consistent. I don't want to make it sound like I can only appreciate the fun tracks, or that I can't accept darker or more challenging songs from BNL. "Straw Hat," "Just a Toy," and "When I Fall" are different and darker than many other BNL tunes (you always worry that window washer is going to jump), and they're as good as BNL gets. It's just that some of the songs ("Call Me Calmly" or "Same Thing," for example) simply don't come together the way their best work does; they're far more clever in conception than they are enjoyable in their execution.
I do think I'll be listening to this album more often. This may still be my least favorite BNL album... but it's still better than most anything else.